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Reviewed: 04 May 2011
Colour reproduction, black levels
Could be better in brightly lit environments
It looks as though Panasonic are finally beginning to concede that 'Style' sells. Although their G30 Plasma screens are not as slim and stylish as some of the more chic offerings from rival manufacturers (or even their own higher end plasmas); they are starting to look like pieces of kit that would not look out of place even the most stylish of living areas.
Although some may find the G30's design still too conservative, a fine level of build quality along with a slightly slimmer screen than the outgoing G20 gives it that understated appeal that may very well find widespread popularity.
Until the arrival of 3D, Plasma TVs appeared to be suffering from what seemed like a terminal decline in the face of a sustained onslaught from their LCD TV rivals.
Screen: 42in 16:9 Tuner: Digital Sound System: Nicam Resolution: 1920 x 1080 Contrast Ratio: 8,000,000:1 Other Features: Freeview HD, Infinite Black, NeoPlasma. Sockets: 4 HDMI (v1.4), SCART (RGB), 3 USB, Component Video, Composite Video, PC input, Ethernet.
With the technology being generally acknowledged as the most suitable for displaying 3D material in the home, Plasma has received a timely shot in the arm. But what about Plasma TVs without the extra dimensional component? do they have a place in the audio visual world of today?
The G30 series of Panasonic Plasma TVs arrive as the highest specification screens you can buy without 3D capability. Lets have a look at what they offer.
Panasonic's Infinite Black technology introduced a newly designed filter along with enhanced cell performance for increased luminous efficiency and essentially, deeper crisper blacks. By minimising the electrical pre-discharge Panasonic claim raised levels of contrast and a significant reduction in power consumption. It is worth noting however, that this element of the G30's specification is unchanged from the outgoing G20 model.
Higher end Panasonic Plasmas offer 'Infinite Black Pro' where the emphasis is on creating the same improvements in areas of high ambient light.
Panasonic's generic NeoPDP technology has now evolved into 'NeoPlasma', the introduction of fast switching phosphors and a narrower rib structure between cells warranting the new moniker. Again, the technology has been designed to increase operating efficiency, while providing a general improvement in picture performance with faster response time and enhanced colour control.
The 3 USBs along with an SD card slot provide some handy elements of functionality in that they provide access to media files held on portable storage devices. The USB can also be used to record from the Freeview HD digital tuner (to a powered hard-disk drive drive), or to make the G30 Wi-Fi enabled via an optional dongle.
With an improved version of their 600Hz Sub-field drive technology, Panasonic say that the G30 delivers even smoother images, while Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) system electronically interpolates extra frames of image data to reduce the effect of judder. 24p Smooth Film kicks in when watching film based material.
THX certification is a guarantee that movie images are reproduced exactly as the film's creators intended them. The overall aim was in the words of Panasonic "to improve the experience of cinema-goers and faithfully recreate the audio and visual ambience that filmmakers intended". To receive THX certification, TVs undergo stringent tests to determine whether the exact same brightness and colour are displayed at all screen locations, and whether black levels satisfy standard criteria
You also get the option of fine tuning the G30's picture to a more advanced level than ever before via the isfcc interface (designed and licensed from the Imaging Science Foundation). The function allows a trained, certified calibrator to finely adjust contrast, tint, sharpness and colour levels for both day and night time viewing.
VIERA Connect allows viewers to enjoy video and music, sports, games, and a variety of other content delivered over the web (via Ethernet or optional wi-fi dongle). Familiar highlights include the BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Twitter and Skype.
Panasonic have cottoned on to the value of using the latest marketing buzz words. Their 'Cloud' based services refer largely to the development of an on line application store which has limited choice at present, but will grow over time.
Elsewhere, the G30 gets a useful Freeview HD tuner (be sure to check that the Freeview HD service is available in your area), 4 HDMI inputs, 3 USBs and an SD card slot. Also worth a mention is Panasonic's vastly improved on screen menu system. Along with the 42in screen reviewed here, Panasonic also offer the 50in TX-P50G30.
While 'Infinite black' filter is essentially unchanged from last year's G20 model, this is no bad thing as it was generally acknowledged as an essential element of what many considered to be the benchmark for mid range Black Level performance.
Panasonic's high end Plasmas have been setting the bar of late for black level ability. The G30 cannot quite match the best Panasonic has to offer, nor did we expect it to. What it does achieve is the best black level performance for any current mid range flat panel TV, either Plasma or LCD.
Scenes where we expected to find darkness were truly black, with a level of graduated detail that discerned visible detail in even the most gloomy of backdrops. With the best plasmas, we have noticed even more detail in those really dark scenes from our test DVDs, but the difference is not hugely significant.
The addition of more advanced Colour controls on the G30 is no indication that you need to spend time tweaking the screen; exactly the opposite in fact, as straight out of the box, colour accuracy was excellent.
Of course, there is something to be gained from fine tuning the colour performance, but many will be satisfied with the defaults. These defaults produce colours that are as vibrant as any mid range plasma we have come across.
Just as impressive as the colour intensity is the subtlety with which those colours are presented. Even the most demanding areas such as facial tones are delivered in a wholly realistic fashion.
With an excellent black level backdrop along with a strong colour performance, we were expecting the TX-P42G30 to perform well with Standard Definition material.
We were certainly not disappointed as the mid range G30 performed just about as well as any flat panel TV at this price level. Pictures were never less than clean and crisp with a level of detail that we have now come to expect from Panasonic Plasmas.
While some video 'noise' was detected along with the odd area where blocks of different colours met with a less than smooth contour (jaggies) the effects were minimal. In fact, we had to look hard for inconsistencies and we are sure that they would not effect the enjoyment of this TV to any great degree.
Panasonic do High Definition just about as well as any other manufacturer.
Once again, HD pictures are predictably good. In fact, they are a lot better than good with a level of pin sharp detail and overall realism that compels you to reach out and touch the screen.
A Full HD (1920 x 1080) configuration makes a big difference to performance and along with Panasonic's Vreal picture processing wizardry produces one of the most startlingly realistic HD pictures you are likely to come across.
One of Plasma's strengths for some time, Motion Handling is just as impressive as the outgoing G20 model and in some respects better. The fast switching phosphor upgrade helps to create one of the highest motion resolutions we have come across. The only Achilles heal of Panasonics of old, 'judder' has been virtually eradicated.
In respect of motion handling, there are none of the processing side effects so often present with LCD TVs and if you are a fan of Plasma technology, you will find no fault with the G30. Fans of that ultra sharp rendition of images you get from LCD technology however, may find the G30 pictures a little 'soft'.
As with last years G20 model, we were pleasantly surprised to find an Acoustic set up which finally goes some way to doing justice to the rest of the screen. While not comparable to a dedicated home cinema set up and still not perfect, the speakers on the P42G30 are noticeably better that most flat panels we have come across. While the base could be stronger, this is one of the few TV's that can really cope with the demands of even the strongest soundtracks.
As a mid range flat panel offering, the TX-P42G30 is hard to fault and is just about the most sensible buy for the price. If however, you watch a lot of TV in a bright environment then an upgrade to the GT30 or higher with its Infinite Black Pro screen coating may be warranted - it does make a considerable difference to watchability in anywhere but a perfectly darkened room.
Colour reproduction, black levels
Could be better in brightly lit environments